Linda Ronstadt has the sort of voice that will allow her to sing anything and sound good. It is also the sort of voice that blends very well with other singers, male and female. Over the past four decades she has recorded some memorable duets. This CD brings together 15 of those outstanding performances from 1974 to 2006, pairing Ronstadt with 12 other estimable artists: Aaron Neville, Emmylou Harris, J.D. Souther, Bette Midler, Don Henley, Dolly Parton, James Ingram, Carl Jackson, Laurie Lewis, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, and Ann Savoy.
For many fans these songs are going to bring back a lot of very good memories. It is hard to pick standout tracks when every song is so exceptional. There are folk, country, and pop songs here, as well as the classic “Moonlight in Vermont” with Sinatra and a superb version of “Sisters” with Bette Midler, from Midler’s 2003 album Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook. Ronstadt and her singing partners excel on all of them. It all comes down to personal preferences.
Favorites of mine include the aforementioned “Sisters,” with its clever lyrics and delightful bounce. Then there’s the hauntingly beautiful “I Never Will Marry,” a traditional folk tune Ronstadt sings with Dolly Parton. There’s also a stunning take on “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You,” with Emmylou Harris . All three of these ladies have such pure voices and are capable of conveying such tender sadness that they handle songs of heartbreak in a way that will touch any listener not made of stone.
Other favorites are “Hasten Down the Wind” with Don Henley and “Prisoner in Disguise” with J.D. Souther. Both are sad, sensitive songs from the mid-’70s when Ronstadt did what this reviewer considers her best work. “Hasten Down the Wind” is a reminder that Warren Zevon could write a song of beauty and sensitivity as easily as he could write “Werewolves of London.” Souther’s voice blends perfectly with Ronstadt’s on his own beautiful song.
Then there’s “Somewhere Out There,” from the delightful animated movie An American Tale. This duet with James Ingram captures all the yearning hopefulness of the song, letting it be the uplifting and inspirational vehicle it was meant to be.
But not all of my favorites are sensitive or inspirational ballads. While Ronstadt did not rock out as hard on any of these duets as she did on some of her solo material, she does do a sassy and charming duet with James Taylor on Ike and Tina Turner’s outstanding “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” that is bound to put a smile on your face.
These songs are just representative of the consistent high quality and superlative nature of the songs on this CD, which is an essential addition to the collection of any Ronstadt fan old and new. You will find yourself returning to the CD again and again and your appreciation for it will only grow with repeated listening.